Scott Bradlee, founder of Postmodern Jukebox is on a mission to create an “alternate universe of popular song.” His tools for this mission are pop songs, a background in classical jazz and an exceptional crew of musicians, who perform radio hits as old timey mash ups. Below, we talked to Bradlee about Postmodern Jukebox’s popular Dinner and a Show Wednesday night residency at Hyde Sunset Kitchen + Cocktails, which shows New Hollywood how Old Hollywood is done.
How would you explain Postmodern Jukebox to a newcomer?
Postmodern Jukebox puts today’s pop hits in a time machine and re-imagines them as if they were written in eras from the past. To go even further, it’s an alternate universe, where today’s pop culture exists in the “Golden Age” of Hollywood: the 1920s-50s.
You’ve covered songs from Taylor Swift, to TLC, to Nicki Minaj. How do you choose the songs you perform?
I like to look for songs that will give a strong contrast when played differently. That was the case with “Anaconda,” “We Can’t Stop,” and “Fancy.” Other times, I’ll pick songs with strong melodies that lend themselves to other genres pretty readily, such as our 1940s jazz cover of “Drunk in Love.”
You add your own style and twist to each song with sounds from the 20s to the 70s, and styles from bluegrass to Motown. Do you have a favorite era and style you gravitate towards?
When I was first teaching myself to play piano, I studied a lot of 1920s jazz, so there’s always something nostalgic to returning to that era for me. It’s particularly interesting when you examine the trends in pop culture during the 1920s—the hedonistic parties, the rebellious fashion, the liberation of young women—since a lot of those same trends are found in pop culture today.
In choosing a new genre for a cover, I’ll typically strip the song down to its bare essentials—its lyrics, melody, and form—and see if there’s anything in there that might translate easily to an older genre. Sometimes, the way that a song becomes popular informs our choices. For example, after Miley Cyrus’ provocative performance of “We Can’t Stop” at the VMAs, it made sense to go in the opposite direction, wholesome 1950s Doo Wop, for our cover.
What can we expect from your Hyde Sunset Residency this Fall?
Hyde is the perfect setting for us to craft an intimate, exclusive experience that takes our audience back to the era of decadent speakeasy parties, flappers, and hot jazz, while remaining relevant to today’s pop culture. It’s a more grown up version of our touring production, with immersive dance performances, special guests, and some amazingly talented vocalists. It’s an Old Hollywood party in New Hollywood.